Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Smith College recognizes and supports the standard set forth in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and similar state laws, which are designed to eliminate discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.
What Is a Disability under the Law?
Disability is defined as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of an individual's major life activities (e.g., caring for oneself, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, sitting, standing). To ensure equality of access for employees with disabilities, reasonable accommodations and auxiliary aids shall be provided to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of her/his job and to participate in all College programs and activities.
Smith College is committed both philosophically and legally to assuring access to all college programs and services. The College pursues the goal of equal access through proactive institutional planning and barrier removal, as well as through the provision of reasonable and appropriate accommodations to students, staff, and faculty with documented disabilities.
Smith College is prepared to modify or adjust a position or the work environment to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of an otherwise qualified employee to enable him/her to perform the essential functions of the job, unless:
- the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on business operations, i.e., an accommodation would be unduly costly, extensive, substantial, or disruptive, or would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business, or
- even with a reasonable accommodation, the individual would still pose a direct threat of substantial harm to the health or safety of him/herself or others.
Determining What Is Reasonable
In determining whether a requested accommodation is reasonable, the College, meaning Human Resources and the Office of Disability Services, and with the employee's supervisor as needed, will consider on a case-by-case basis whether such a request is feasible and effective, and does not create undue hardship and/or would fundamentally alter the nature of the College's operation of its business.
Accommodation Request Process
- Meet with your supervisor, Human Resources, the Office of Disability Services, or the Associate Dean of Faculty to discuss the disability and resulting needs.
- Complete a Voluntary Request for Reasonable Accommodation form and submit it to Human Resources.
- Submit appropriate and current medical documentation or other documentation from a professional qualified to make an assessment of your condition to Human Resources. Additional documentation may be needed if there is an ongoing need for the accommodation.
- Human Resources and the Office of Disability Services will determine if a disability exists as defined under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- If a disability exists, Human Resources and the Office of Disability Services will gather additional information, as needed, to determine if the accommodation requested is reasonable.
- Human Resources or the Associate Dean of Faculty will communicate the results of the inquiry to you.
- If an accommodation is determined reasonable and necessary, Human Resources, the Office of Disability Services, or the Associate Dean of Faculty will assist in either providing the requested accommodation or an equally effective alternative. Human Resources, the Office of Disability Services, or the Associate Dean of Faculty will work with your supervisor or chair to facilitate the accommodation when appropriate. Reasonable accommodation does not negate requirements for good job performance or adherence to generally applicable standards of productivity or conduct.
- In the event there is a dispute concerning the disposition of the requested accommodation, you may appeal the decision to the Associate VP of Human Resources or to the Chief Diversity Officer.
The College will be unable provide an accommodation if an individual with a disability does not disclose and provide documentation of a disability and/or does not make a request with enough time to provide the accommodation. Every effort will be made to provide for requests determined reasonable, but an alternative may also be provided.
Individuals with disabilities have additional civil rights protections specified in detail in the Rehabilitation Act and the ADA that go beyond employment rights. See www.ada.gov.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a workplace accommodation?
A workplace accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way in which a job is usually done that enables an individual with a disability who is otherwise qualified to perform a job to attain the same level of performance and to enjoy the same benefits and privileges of employment.
Generally speaking, accommodations are services, resources, adaptations, and restructuring which allow an individual with a disability to have equal access to something someone without a disability has access to. The umbrella term "accommodation" refers to auxiliary aids (terminology often used for student accommodations) and employment-based services, resources, and adaptations. An institution is obligated to provide accommodations and/or auxiliary aids to individuals with disabilities as defined by the ADA. However, the accommodation must be reasonable. Although the ADA provides examples of different kinds of auxiliary aids and accommodations, all accommodations are determined on an individual basis after an examination of pertinent medical documentation or other appropriate documentation.
How will my requested workplace accommodation be evaluated?
You may initially meet with your supervisor, Human Resources or the Office of Disability Services to discuss your accommodation request individually and to gain an explanation of the process. Once you have submitted the appropriate forms and Human Resources receives the verification of the medical or psychological condition from your health care professional, we will determine whether the condition is a disability under the ADA. If the condition is protected by the ADA, Human Resources or the Office of Disability Services will then determine whether the requested workplace accommodation is appropriate and whether it will be effective in assisting you with the essential functions of your particular job. Supervisors and department chairs will be involved on an as-needed basis to assure implementation of proper accommodations. Accommodations cannot be provided retroactively.
The full Accommodation Request Process is posted on both the Disability Services and Human Resources web sites.
What if my condition is not a disability under the ADA?
Temporary disabilities are not typically covered under the ADA, and neither are conditions that do not substantially limit a major life activity. While an employee may have a physical or mental impairment that may not be covered by the ADA, he or she could be protected under a variety of state or federal provisions such as the Family Leave laws or Worker's Compensation insurance. If Human Resources or the Office of Disability Services determine the condition is not covered by the ADA, other options for addressing the employee's concerns will be explored when appropriate.
What happens if I have no medical or other appropriate documentation?
Unfortunately, the College will not be able to guarantee either reasonable accommodations or auxiliary aids to anyone who is unable to provide necessary medical documentation. Please speak to Human Resources, the Office of Disability Services, or the Associate Dean of Faculty for advice on acquiring documentation of your disability. Documentation of a medical condition from a doctor does not automatically guarantee that you are covered by the ADA or that you will receive an accommodation. The determination of a disability and any reasonable accommodation under the law are made by the College.
What are my privacy rights regarding my medical information?
Disability-related information, including medical documentation, is treated as confidential and access is limited to protect an employee's privacy. Request for workplace accommodations and accompanying documentation will be kept in a confidential file separate from your personnel file.